Event Dates: 3/24/23 - 3/26/23 Reviewer: Lindsay
Cheerily making my way into the event hall, I take in the sights around me. It's a pleasant day, and even as the weekend's coming to a close, it's busy in here. Clusters of excited attendees surround vendor booths, browsing for all sorts of spooky things to bring home. There's a table laid out with a grotesque spread of fake foods, splattered with gore or covered in worms. Masks of every shape and size you could ever want. Costumes to transform you into whatever character you please. If you name it, they've probably got it and then some.
As I near the end of the vendor row I'm in, there's a break in the crowd - and I'm suddenly faced with a twisted, deformed monster in my path. Our eyes meet, and they do not miss the way I nervously skirt around them. Nor does the guy wielding some sort of cannon at the far corner of the hall... the next thing I know, he's blasting rings of fog straight at me! (I've been here for all of 15 minutes and I'm being attacked. Welcome to my life.) Retreating further back, I seem to have dodged any additional scares, but the ominous cawing of crows from afar- and occasional unearthly screech, ringing out across the floor- reminds me of exactly what environment I've chosen to enter.
If you're reading this and wondering "where in the hell did you wind up this time?!", just know these sorts of things are to be expected when you attend a haunted house convention - and they also describe one of the days I spent at Fear Expo, a new trade show for the haunt industry held annually in Owensboro, Kentucky.
2023 marks the second year for Fear Expo, following a successful maiden year in 2022. Hosted at the beautiful Owensboro Convention Center, the event has already grown significantly, expanding its show floor and adding more classes and events for attendees. Tickets are very reasonable, starting at $25 for General Admission, which includes access to a lot of what the convention offers - but if you're interested in more, you can go VIP for $65 and gain perks that include exclusive vendor floor access, special networking events, access to a VIP lounge, and lots of other cool stuff.
Something important I have to mention: while most of what we cover on Haunted Honeymooners is geared towards haunt customers, Fear Expo is an event that's 100% for the industry, meaning it is NOT open to the public. But if you own any sort of haunted attraction or escape room, work at them in some capacity, participate in the horror industry, or you're a member of an established haunt media team, you can register to attend.
So what's there to do here? Anything and everything - it all depends on why you're there! In addition to a good sized vendor floor offering all manner of scary things, there are several classes you can sign up for, discussing topics that include social media, costuming, sliding, line acting, there was even a writing class. Live makeup demonstrations were happening throughout each day as well. An exclusive dinner at Moonlite Bar-B-Q was held for the vendors a couple of nights prior to the show's opening, and Friday was a day filled with networking for VIPs. And like other haunt conventions, Fear Expo also offered their own Monster Ball costume party on Saturday night - where admission was FREE with any ticket. (I didn't go myself, but I thought that was pretty nice.)
Being part of the haunt review & media scene and not a haunter myself, I skipped a lot of the haunt-focused classes and such, not wanting to take up space when a haunter could be there and benefit from them. But I still found plenty to do! Fear Expo is a sponsor of the Ultimate Haunt Tour this year, so I kicked my experience off with that on Thursday, traveling to six different haunts around- and close to- Kentucky. Saturday and Sunday were spent browsing the show floor, where I was completely in my element, shopping for cool spooky stuff and speaking with as many people as I could. In addition to seeing many haunters I knew, it was nice to reconnect with familiar faces from Haunt Report Reviews and HauntScene, and also run into people from Haunt Seekers United Nation, LLC and ScurryFace for the first time. For me, the folks you meet are the best part of going to these events; everyone was incredibly nice, and I enjoyed making new connections and learning all about the many amazing things people in this industry do and create.
On a somewhat unrelated note, if you're looking for a good hotel, the Holiday Inn next door is only a short walk from the convention center and it was awesome - reasonably priced and immaculate. And if you're wondering where to eat around town, I can vouch that Mellow Mushroom and Don Mario's were both great. (It seemed like everyone and their mother ate at Moonlite over the weekend. I'll have to hit that up next time I'm in town.)
Although I've attended public haunt conventions in the past, Fear Expo was my first foray into the world of industry-focused trade shows - and I loved every minute of my experience. The atmosphere was relaxed, there was a lot to do and plenty of vendors, and I learned so much from all of the talented people I met that weekend, even as a reviewer. I hope I can return in the near future, and if you work in the industry and are on the fence about attending this event, I completely encourage you to check it out.